Old World Gloom, New World Cheer

Recent political divisions between Europe and the U.S. may be trivial compared to basic temperamental differences. A Harris Poll finds a clear majority of Americans “very satisfied” with their lives (see the chart). Americans are more likely to say their lives have improved in the past five years (56 percent did so) than to say their lives have worsened (18 percent) or stayed the same (26 percent). Looking to the next five years, 65 percent expect their personal situation to improve, doubling the sum of those who feel it will stay as is (22 percent) or worsen (10 percent). Harris compares these glad tidings with data from a Eurobarometer poll fielded last year in 15 Western European nations. On the question of how satisfied people are with their lives, the “very satisfied” vote averaged a lackluster 31 percent. Only Denmark (64 percent) outscored the U.S., while the figures were utterly dismal in France (18 percent), Italy (16 percent), Greece (14 percent) and Portugal (3 percent). An average of 45 percent said their lives had improved in the past five years. Ireland (63 percent), Sweden (60 percent) and Britain (57 percent) fared well on this question; Germany had the worst showing (26 percent). As for the next five years, a European average of 44 percent expect their lives to improve. None of those countries surpassed the U.S. on this question, though Ireland (58 percent), Spain (56 percent) and Britain (55 percent) scored fairly well. Germany again was the gloomiest (23 percent).